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Federal government grants Michigan request, waives test accountability measures this year

An education funding bill passes in the House.
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
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The jury is still out on whether Michigan students will have to take the M-STEP test this year. But whatever tests students do take won’t be used for school accountability measures.

The Michigan Department of Education requested a waiver on accountability measures that tests are typically used for. That includes things like public school rankings, and measuring progress toward long-term goals.

The U.S. Department of Education granted that request, MDE announced Monday, because of learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been an extremely challenging year for students and educators,” Michigan state schools superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement. “USED’s waiver of federal accountability requirements recognizes that our schools are still navigating their way through a deadly pandemic that continues to grip our state and nation.”

Now, MDE is looking for the federal government to waive “stateside summative assessments” — the M-STEP — altogether this school year.

“This is not the time to engage in state summative assessments,” Rice said. “Educators can determine where kids are academically for parents and for themselves with our benchmark assessments, and can use those assessments to target resources, interventions, and supports for our kids in our districts. Our schools need this time to focus on the social emotional and academic needs of children.”

Rice has advocated for school districts be allowed to administer lower-stakes benchmark assessments of their choice to students this year, instead of the M-STEP.

The U.S. Department of Education has said it will address that waiver request later. If they do waive it, the state legislature will have to act too, and set aside state law requirements.

According to MDE, the Department of Education “also encouraged the state and local school districts to consider other steps to further reduce the high stakes associated with assessments this year, such as excluding their use from students’ final grades, grade promotion decisions, educator evaluations, and local school ratings.”

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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